02/12/2013 3:40 PM
Story By: Stuart McComish
HAMILTON, Ont. – The 12th and final chapter of this season’s American Hockey League’s Battle of Ontario will be written Tuesday when the Hamilton Bulldogs host the Toronto Marlies at 7:30 p.m.
The Marlies have won seven of the 11 meetings to date, but the Bulldogs, who have three wins and one loss each in overtime and via shootout in five home games against the Marlies, won the North Division rivals’ last game, skating to a 6-4 decision at Toronto last Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs come into the game off a 2-1 win over the visiting Texas Stars last Saturday night while the Marlies dropped a 3-2 verdict to the Stars at home the following afternoon.
“We’re archrivals, we play them so much,” Bulldogs head coach Sylvain Lefebvre said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “It should be easy to get up for this game and it’s a problem if you don’t. It’s no different than when I played, we always looked forward to the rivalry games. You want to be part of those games and win them.”
Lefebvre was hoping the momentum from the Bulldogs’ win over the Marlies last week would carry into their next game, but the Bulldogs lost 3-0 to the visiting Chicago Wolves last Friday night.
“As much as we try to get the players to play the same way every night, the consistency has to come from them,” said Lefebvre, whose charges are in the midst of a string of nine home games in February. “They have to be ready to find ways to win games. Good teams find ways to win games, it doesn’t matter how they do it.
“If things are going well we want to remember and duplicate them, but when bad things happen we need to learn from them, but not dwell on it. We all need to be better and stronger mentally and that’s where the consistency will come from.”
The Bulldogs managed to catch a break against the Stars, who are the top team in the Western Conference. After a scoreless first period in which they were outshot 15-6, the Bulldogs fell behind on a Luke Gazdic goal at 4:41 of the second period. With Joe Stejskal off for delay of game and delayed slashing call coming to Morgan Ellis, an errant pass by the Stars deep in Bulldogs territory ended up in their net which had been vacated when goaltender Jack Campbell went to the bench for a sixth skater. Blueliner Jason DeSantis was credited with the goal and defenceman Greg Pateryn scored the winner at 16:28 of the third period as the Bulldogs were outshot 37-23.
“We were already down a man and there was a delayed penalty call that was going to put us down two men,” said Lefebvre. “To get that goal was odd, but we’ll take it.”
Pateryn’s contribution was timely given the Bulldogs are expected to be without stalwart defenders Frederic St-Denis and Jarred Tinordi. Pateryn, who scored his first career AHL goal last week at Toronto, recently returned to the lineup after missing 34 games with a fractured elbow.
“When guys get injured or called up it gives opportunities to others and we have had some guys come in and fill roles nicely,” said Lefebvre. “Hopefully that will continue tonight.”
The Bulldogs, who have a record of 16-24-1-5 for 32 points and are in last place in the division and conference, have yet to win more than two consecutive games this season.
“It’s frustrating and puzzling trying to find the answers,” said Lefebvre. “Sometimes the answer has to come from the players in the room and there is some leadership there. Leaders are leaders, you don’t need a letter on your jersey to be a leader. We know who they are.
“We need to make sure they are focused. We have to find ways to motivate the players and it isn’t easy when you’re looking at the standings. But we have to focus on the process and focus on what we have to do.”
The Bulldogs host the Hershey Bears at 7:30 p.m. Friday on a night when they will salute the men and women of Canada’s armed forces. The Bulldogs will be in action Saturday when they host the Houston Aeros in a 7 p.m. start on Pepsi Night and they will entertain the Rochester Americans in a Family and Faith Day matinee at 3 p.m. Monday.